In a normal year, mid-July would find me busily preparing for my journey to Edinburgh.
I’d be readying to get up at 3:15 am (8:15 am BT) to buy my Book Festival tickets as soon as the box office opened. Scour @lyngardner’s Twitter feed for Fringe Festival suggestions. Pour over the International Festival catalogue for opera and theatre choices.
This year, for the second time, I’ll join some events by Zoom. But I long for the journey of personal discovery that my days wandering that city, echoes of my mother and grandmother’s accents all around me, always is.
I write well in Scotland, spending mornings in the back garden in the centuries-old South Queensferry stone house that belongs to my friends Clare and Mark. They are generous souls who open their doors to a fascinating crop of friends and friends-of-friends during festival season, helping forge connections and curiosity at their big round kitchen table, food in the Aga, wine on the table, laughter in the air.
I take the #43 bus into Edinburgh early in the morning and back late at night. Long days filled with book talks, plays, opera, musical performances, meanders through museums and galleries, up and down stone stairs/closes between Old Town and New. Conversations with strangers in tea gardens and pause moments splayed out on the green grasses of The Meadows or propped on a Princes Street Gardens bench, ice cream in hand.
The sheer scale and audacity of the art available – free and ticketed – is humbling and inspiring. I’ve scribbled away in my notebook in cafes (the quiet of Jenners, the tumult of Pinks, the elegance of Festival Theatre), over wine and charcuterie at Ecco Vino, during dinner at Wildfire Restaurant, in line at Dance Base.
Edinburgh Festivals is struggling with decisions right now. The rising delta-driven coronavirus in the midst of re-opening. How to survive a dramatically slimmed down year after the cancellations of 2020. What a new normal looks like that will balance complaints by residents that the festivals have grown too enormous and overwhelming, versus the badly needed £1bn a year in income it brings.
Big challenges, no easy answers.
Because there are multiple truths. Virtual events benefit many people who cannot or do not want to attend live events. The elderly, the immuno-compromised, those who face mobility or other access challenges.
But for others, there is no replicating the communal act of being in the same place, at the same time, watching the magic unfold. It sparks accidental connections and creativity. Inspires complete absorption, now rare in our device-controlled lives. And delivers personal truths, big and small.
Edinburgh in August is irreplaceable. It is over-packed, impossible to get around quickly, full of panhandling artists, cramped underground venues, and long queues? Yes.
But it’s also the next Fleabag in the making. It is wandering cobbled streets and hidden courtyards that people have wandered for hundreds and hundreds of years, audio headset on, spellbound by Janet Cardiff’s ghost story. Tented villages, constructed anew each year, with their multi-room venues, food trucks, outdoor bars, and chattering, happy people.
Edinburgh has been my refuge and inspiration for fifteen years. Memories of a shared trip with my dear friend Kelley, before she passed away. The delight of watching my partner fall under its spell. It’s sitting in hundreds of Book Festival events, originally as a curatorial guest of British Council, then as a reader, then as a writer hoping very much one day to be on that stage. (Not yet, not yet. . .)
The impulse for a smaller, more sustainable Edinburgh Festivals is understandable. Who will want to be left out, a little less so.
Clare calls me the migrating bird who re-appears each year at her house, ready to organize readings and performances tickets, walk the sea wall, catch up on the news of the people I’ve met over the years in her magnificent home. I plan to warble my way back there in 2022.
SWAG is here!
We’re launching a swag campaign this week; stay tuned for full details on helenwalsh.ca or my social media channels.
If you’re already pre-ordered Pull Focus, thank you! Email email@example.com with a copy of your purchase receipt, and you’ll receive the four-postcard set, and automatically be entered a weekly draw (between now and the book launch date of September 7, 2021) for a full swag pack. (Bookbag, t-shirt, ballcap, and signed copy of the book.)
If you buy five books, you’ll receive the whole swag pack, and the gratitude of your friends for their very fine gifted book!
— Anna Porter, author of Deceptions
“A spellbinding debut from Helen Walsh, Pull Focus is a tense, sexy, emotionally charged thriller. Jane, its resourceful, outspoken, often witty central character will not allow herself to be defeated by the dangerous forces that conspire to end her career and, perhaps, her life.”
Their 2021 line-up of in-person and digital events includes over 100 films, special events, talks, tribute, and interactive experiences over 10 days, as well as the industry conference. Ticket info HERE. Meanwhile, love this VR look inside this year’s Luminato festival (Oct 13-17), courtesy of Great Hall. And their podcast city walk tours are pretty nifty, too.
News & Gossips
Industry bible Publisher’s Marketplace has listed nearly 4,000 film/tv deals since 2000; last year TV adaptations exceed those of film for the first time. Rotten Tomatoes cites 125 literary adaptations in development right now.
What does this mean for books and authors? TV adaptations of course drive book sales, re-energizing backlist titles. (Think Bridgerton or The Queen’s Gambit.)
According to the article’s analysis, it also influences the # of reviews you get on Goodreads, the # of academic citations, and the likelihood of inclusion in course syllabi. “Nowadays, the first draft of the literary canon is being written in TV Guide.”
Interestingly, adaptations even influence whether a book is acquired by publishers. Network and streamer scouts talk with publishers about adaptation at a very early stage (i.e., before a contract is signed), and production companies, agencies, and scouting firms are hiring specialists in literary development.
Delighted for my colleague and friend Zalika Reid-Benta. Penguin Canada has acquired Canadian English rights to her upcoming book River Mumma in a two-book deal. The novel is described as a magical realist story about a millennial Black woman who navigates her quarter-life crisis while embarking on a quest through the streets of Toronto. Publication is expected for spring 2023. The deal was arranged by Amy Tompkins of Transatlantic Agency.
The folks at Booknet Canada continue their deep dive into Canadian book trends by genre; this installment is Romance and Erotica. Interestingly, in print books, Romance ranked #6 in popularity (25%) and for ebook readers, it was #4 (27%) tied with Fantasy, which dovetails with reports I had read previously that Romance/Erotica performed better as ebooks than other types of fiction. I remember riding the subway when Fifty Shades of Grey was first a phenomenon and watching women try to camouflage the book cover. A colleague of mine let me a copy of it but delivered it to my desk in a plain brown envelope. As the series captured the zeitgeist, the subterfuge seemed to fade away.
I wrote in a previous Letterbox about new imprint Bloom Books, aimed at ‘entrepreneurial women authors’ who want a more active role in the publishing of their books and launched with EL James (Fifty Shades of Grey) attached. They’ve now announced their second partnership – fantasy romance author Scarlett St Clair. The deal gives them rights to her full backlist and will publish her upcoming novel, King of Battle and Blood, this fall.
The first in her self-published series, A Touch of Darkness, was a TikTok-driven success, with sales so far this year of almost 60,000 copies and bookstores rushing to keep up with reader requests.
A compelling list of African Noir novels, a genre that has so far received less attention than literary novels or Africanfuturism titles, and exploration of different trends in regions across the continent. The article notes that “these novels are often gritty, dark, and unsentimental, reminiscent of pulp from the golden age of detective novels in utilizing traditional methods of detection, rather than CSI-style forensics.” Looking forward to diving in.
Bye for now. Thank you for joining me for this ninth issue of Letterbox. Please connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Facebook, Clubhouse: @helenwalsh, and my website: www.helenwalsh.ca.
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